State of Missouri vs. Earl Ringo, Jr.

Missouri Supreme Court Cast Number: SC81892

RingoECase Facts: On July 3, 1998, defendant and a friend, Quentin Jones, were traveling to Columbia, Missouri, in a rented U-Haul truck. Defendant rented the truck to move his belongings from Columbia to Jeffersonville, Indiana. During the trip, defendant concocted a plan to commit an early morning robbery of the Ruby Tuesday restaurant in Columbia where he had formerly been employed. From that employment, defendant recalled the early morning routine. He explained the two men could wear Ruby Tuesday T-shirts, go to the back door at an early hour, and trick the manager into letting them inside. At that time of day, the manager would be the only person in the building. Defendant believed that the cash proceeds from the previous day’s operation would be left in a safe and that their take could amount to several thousand dollars.

On arrival in Columbia, the two went to defendant’s former residence and began packing his possessions in the truck. During the process, defendant opened a backpack inside the truck, revealing a bulletproof vest and some gloves. He also displayed two ski masks, two Ruby Tuesday T-shirts, and some jeans that Jones could wear to look more like an employee. After loading the truck, Jones went to sleep. However, defendant did not sleep. He remained awake, cleaning a 9 millimeter pistol. At about 4:30 a.m. on July 4, defendant woke Jones. They then drove to a Radio Shack store within walking distance of the restaurant. At that point, Jones expressed reluctance to go inside the restaurant. Defendant responded by chastising Jones, telling him to “Stop being a bitch and come on.” The two then walked toward the restaurant, defendant carrying the backpack.

Once there, the men, already wearing the T-shirts supplied by defendant, approached the restaurant from the rear and walked through an unlocked gateway guarding the back of the restaurant. Defendant closed the gates behind him. Since they had seen no vehicles in the parking lot, they remained within the gated area, waiting for a manager or another employee to arrive. Defendant indicated to Jones that when another employee arrived, they would knock on the back door in the hope of being let inside.

At 5:55 a.m., a delivery truck driven by Dennis Poyser arrived. Jones panicked and attempted to flee by climbing the wall, but defendant instructed him to hide. Jones complied and located a hiding place between a trash dumpster and a “grease pit.” The two put on the ski masks. Next, Joanna Baysinger, a manager in training, opened the rear door of the building, and Poyser opened the outer gates. Baysinger came out to the gateway and spoke with Poyser. Then, Baysinger returned to the building along with Poyser. Carrying his pistol, defendant ran in after them.

Once inside, defendant shot Poyser in the face from a distance of about six inches. Poyser fell to the floor. Hearing the gunshot, Jones entered the building and found Poyser on the floor and Baysinger screaming. She had blood on her hand and ankle. Then defendant grabbed Baysinger, forced her into the restaurant office, and demanded that she open the safe. While in the office with Baysinger, defendant directed Jones to go to the front of the restaurant and make sure no one else had arrived. Jones did so and, seeing no one else, returned to the office. When Jones returned, he found defendant and Baysinger next to the safe. Defendant filled the backpack with cash from the petty cash and cash drawers located in the top part of the safe as Baysinger tried to open the bottom part containing the cash proceeds from the previous day’s business. Defendant told Jones to make certain the back door was closed. Jones closed the door and returned to see Baysinger struggling with the bottom part of the safe while defendant became increasingly frustrated with her. He demanded that Baysinger “hurry up” as Jones knocked the telephone to the floor in order to scare her.

Suddenly, another employee arrived and knocked on the back door. Defendant responded by handing Jones the gun and his right glove. Defendant said, “If she moves, shoot her.” He left Jones in charge of controlling Baysinger, and despite the employee knocking on the door, dragged Poyser’s body into the walk-in cooler by the legs. Meanwhile, the employee became discouraged and left the restaurant in order to try calling from a nearby McDonald’s restaurant.

Baysinger continued having difficulty in opening the lower part of the safe, and finally asked Jones if he would try. Jones refused. Then he became uncomfortable holding the gun used to kill Poyser, so he set it on the floor. Defendant returned to the office, no longer wearing the ski mask, and asked Jones why the gun was on the floor. Jones picked up the gun and handed it back to defendant, who promptly fired a shot at the floor beside Baysinger to hasten her. Baysinger stood, covered her ears with her hands and screamed. After collecting herself, she again tried unsuccessfully to open the lower portion of the safe. At one point, defendant also tried. As before, this final attempt to open the lower part failed, and defendant gave up.

Frustrated, defendant asked Baysinger how much money she had, seized her purse, and emptied it onto a table. Then, he instructed her to find a piece of paper and write a note saying “I’m sorry.” As she wrote, defendant took Jones aside and asked him if he wanted to kill Baysinger. Jones shrugged his shoulders and shook his head but took the gun from defendant nevertheless. Baysinger announced she had finished writing the note. Jones pointed the gun at her head and looked at defendant, who encouraged him to quit stalling and shoot her. Finally, Jones squeezed the trigger, shooting her in the head. Baysinger fell to the floor. Jones picked up the backpack and placed the gun inside.

The two men then left Ruby Tuesday through the front door and walked back to the truck. They fled the scene in the truck, heading east on Interstate Highway 70.

Along the way, they disassembled the gun and discarded the parts and the T-shirts at various points. Once in Indiana, they split the $1,400 obtained from the robbery. Following a police investigation, defendant was arrested nine days later. Jones turned himself in the same day.

Jones pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and armed criminal action. In order to avoid the death penalty, Jones agreed to testify for the state against defendant. The jury found defendant guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and recommended that he be sentenced to death for each.